After all of your stitching is complete, it's time to block and finish your needlepoint project. All completed needlepoint projects should be blocked, even if you used a frame or stretcher bars for stitching. Not only does the blocking process straighten the canvas and put back the sizing, but it fluffs the stitches, too.
Many stitchers are afraid they will ruin their hard work if they do the final finishing process themselves. As a result, they send their work out to a professional finisher. But you can successfully block and finish your own needlework to save time and money. Don't cut corners, however. Never iron or press your finished needlepoint canvas. Ironing and pressing flatten the fibers and ruins the texture of your beautiful work, especially on textured or decorative stitches.
It's also important to know that blocking will not fix a poorly stitched needlepoint project—even if you send it to a professional; so make sure to work the design as directed and properly make the needlepoint stitches.
Equipment / Tools
- Blocking board
- Steam iron
- Spray bottle
- Rust-proof T-pins or push-pins
- Paper pattern of your unworked canvas
- Finished needlepoint canvas
Prepare the Canvas
Preparing the needlepoint canvas for blocking has its own set of easy-to-follow steps. If you take the time to do this before starting the stretching process, you'll save time and frustration as you pull the canvas back into its correct shape and size.
Remove the Canvas
Remove the canvas from the frame or stretcher bars.
Remove any masking tape you put on the edges before stitching to keep the canvas from unraveling.
Dampen the Canvas
Dampen the canvas using a spray bottle filled with clean, warm (not hot) water. Spray it liberally to dampen the surface, but do not over-wet the canvas. It should be damp—not dripping.
Let the canvas rest for five to 10 minutes to relax the dampened fibers.
Alternative Dampening Method
Use this alternative dampening method if desired:
- Dip the piece into a sink of warm water.
- Roll it around in a fluffy towel to remove the excess water—but do not twist or wring, as this will warp the piece even further.
- Let the needlepoint rest before pinning.
Re-Shape the Needlepoint
Carefully tug the corners and sides of the canvas to gradually re-shape the needlepoint a bit before you mount it on the blocking board.
Mounting the Canvas on the Blocking Board
Straightening a warped canvas by pinning it to a blocking board is the simplest, quickest, and most efficient way to stretch a finished piece of needlepoint back into shape. If you don't have a blocking board, there are alternatives:
- Make a padded board by adding fabric that is printed with a grid of equally sized squares to a board.
- Consider covering a pine board with a towel and using a T-square to make sure the canvas correctly lines up.
- Use an ironing board or even a clean, carpeted floor in a pinch.
Now is also the time to find the paper pattern or template of the original size and shape of the needlepoint canvas. You'll use this paper pattern of the unworked canvas as a guide for straightening and clocking the completed needlepoint.
If There's No Template
If you did not make a template, don't worry! If you know what the finished measurements of your piece should be, then you can use these numbers for stretching the warped canvas.
Pin Corners To the Blocking Board
After wetting and gently tugging on the canvas, pin just the four corners of the canvas to the blocking board.
For simple blocking where you worked your project with basketweave tent needlepoint stitches, for example, pin the stitched design face up on your blocking board.
Read First if You're Applying Sizing
If you plan to apply stiffener or sizing to further strengthen the finished needlepoint, do this:
- Place the canvas face down on the blocking board.
- Follow steps 2 through 4 under "Mounting the Canvas on the Blocking Board."
- Then after the blocked canvas has dried, apply the sizing to the back of the piece.
- Keep the needlepoint pinned to the blocking board until the sizing or stiffener dries, as well.
Stretch the Sides
- Begin pinning the sides of the canvas to the board.
- Keep gently pulling and stretching the sides of the canvas as you pin.
- Pin the canvas to the board along the grid lines using them as your guide to square the canvas.
Place T-Pins Into the Canvas
- Place enough T-pins to hold the canvas securely in place.
- Place pins as close to the edges of the stitching as possible, without touching the stitched thread.
- Space the pins about a 1/2 inch to 1 inch apart.
Let the Canvas Dry
Allow the canvas to dry for several days before removing the T-pins.
For Severely Warped Pieces
If your canvas was severely warped from exclusively using the Continental Tent or Half-Cross Tent needlepoint stitch, you may need to repeat this process several times. In addition, give it a shot of hot steam with your iron (without the canvas touching the iron) and allow it to dry thoroughly for several days—especially if the finished needlepoint is particularly stubborn.
Basic Dry-Block Method
There are some situations when traditional or wet-blocking will not work and you'll need to use the dry-block method on your canvas to straighten it:
- If you've used non-colorfast threads or novelty yarns such as velvet, you will have to dry-block the canvas.
- If you've worked a lot of surface embroidery stitches or added embellishments such as beads, gems, or other items that are superimposed on the canvas, you will need to carefully dry-block the needlepoint canvas.
If you prefer to block your own needlepoint, here are simple dry-block steps.
Pin the Canvas
Pin the canvas to the blocking board face down by putting a T-pin in each corner.
Wet the Wrong Side of the Canvas
Use the mist setting on your spray bottle to lightly wet the wrong side of the canvas with clean clear water.
Stretch the Canvas
Gently stretch the canvas, pinning every 1/2 inch on the blocking board's grid lines until the canvas has been straightened.
Let the Canvas Dry
Let your needlepoint dry thoroughly before removing from the blocking board.
Dry-Block Method on Stretcher Bars
If you used stretcher bars to stitch your project, you can easily dry-block the canvas by re-stretching it on the bars.
Pin the Canvas
- Pin the right side of the canvas on top of the stretcher bars, pulling it as taut as you can on all sides.
- Place the bars between two tables or chairs so that the canvas is easy to see.
Place Wet Cloth on the Iron
Instead of a light mist, place a wet cloth on top of a hot iron that has been placed on the "dry" setting instead of the "steam" setting.
Pass the Iron Over Wrong Side of the Canvas
- Hold the iron about 3 to 4 inches under the wrong side of the canvas.
- Pass it over the entire underside of the canvas to let the steam rise up through the fibers.
- Do not saturate the canvas with too much steam.
Re-Stretch the Canvas
Gently re-stretch the canvas again until it is taut and firm. If the canvas is not straight, let it dry and repeat the steaming process.
Let the Canvas Dry
Make sure the canvas is completely dry while still pinned to the stretcher bars before removing it.